The city will experiment with a new interactive budget consultation format on Oct. 15.
Based out of council chambers, the e-town hall will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and will include an overview of the budget process, timeline and key considerations; an interim summary of responses to the online budget survey; and budget questions from the public answered by city staff.
There are four ways members of the public can participate: online, by phone, in person or at the library.
Through the city's website, residents will be redirected to a webpage where they can view the live webcast and submit budget questions. Questions can also be submitted by calling the city between 5 and 8 p.m. and speaking to a customer service representative. For those who want to be in the thick of it, they can come down to city hall where staff will facilitate the collection and queuing of audience questions.
Those who don't have a computer or Internet access can also visit the Skylab at the Bob Harkins branch of the Prince George Public Library to watch the webcast as well as submit budget questions online between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m.
The interactive session will be moderated by Marleen Morris, associate director of UNBC's Community Development Institute. Members of council are expected to attend, but in an information gathering capacity. Questions will be directed to and answered by city staff.
The e-town hall format is modelled after an effort undertaken by the city of Nanaimo last year, which received a bronze award for Innovation Management from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada for their event.
Traditionally, public input to the city's annual budget deliberations has been minimal. The e-town hall format has been introduced in the hopes of engaging a broader and more diverse cross section of residents in budget discussions.
During the 2013 budget process in February, an online survey asking residents to rate their satisfaction of 28 different services generated 270 responses. Only one person took advantage of the two public input opportunities during budget meetings.
The first council budget deliberation meeting is scheduled for Nov. 27.
Before the draft budget goes before council, staff have to make some adjustments to accommodate an unexpected $150,000 hit.
A recent report from the Municipal Pension Plan has highlighted a nearly $1.4 billion shortfall, requiring an increased contribution from communities provincewide.
The increase will be shared by employers and members, with both rates going up by 0.7 per cent of salary, effective July. 1, 2014.
"Today's dilemma is we need to find another $150,000 in the 2014 budget. We've given you a guideline of 2.5 per cent which you're working towards and now you need to add another $150,000. Are you adding or are you finding another 150 from somewhere else?" Mayor Shari Green asked during Monday's finance and audit committee meeting.
Financial planning manager Kris Dalio said senior staff will be having discussions about where the money is coming from. "It would be about a 0.13 per cent impact to the guideline," he said.